6. Johanna Thoma | What are the requirements of instrumental rationality?


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Welcome to the sixth episode of the Portugal Street Philosophy Podcast, the official podcast of the LSE Philosophy Society. In each episode, we take an important philosophical question and explore our best current attempts to answer it. For this episode, our question is “What are the requirements of instrumental rationality?” and our guide to the topic is Professor Johanna Thoma.

In this episode we discuss:

  • Instrumental rationality: coherence of attitudes and reasons
  • Basic ingredients of normative decision theory and traditional instrumental rationality
  • Normative decision theory as a theory of instrumental rationality: interpretation and justification
  • Practical reason: Humeanism vs. Kantianism
  • Two requirements of decision theory: consistent preferences, and acting in accordance with preferences
  • Requirements on preferences in cases of certainty, risk, and uncertainty
  • Instrumentalist arguments for coherence requirements
  • Preferences as foundational vs. utility as foundational
  • The Money Pump Argument for transitive preferences
  • Why the Money Pump Argument doesn’t work

About our guest:

Johanna Thoma is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the London School of Economics. She works broadly at the intersection of philosophy, economics, and public policy. She has published on practical rationality and decision theory, ethics, and public policy, as well as economic methodology and the application of economic methods to philosophical problems. Much of her work is united by the goal of better understanding what morality and rationality require of us when we are facing uncertainty about the future. Check out Johanna's website here: https://johannathoma.com/

About your host:

Eric Chen is an undergraduate studying Philosophy and Economics at the London School of Economics.

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